Suggestions for Emergency Preparedness for Older Citizens

Wherever we reside, a day does not pass that we do not read or hear about serious weather emergencies or other crises that are a threat to our well-being. In most communities, emergency responders and residents practice and implement emergency steps that will be followed in the event of a catastrophic event. It is important to encourage our older citizens to develop a plan to be reviewed periodically so that they will feel confident that they have a planned routine to follow in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

This article outlines some steps that we can share with our older family members to help them prepare for crises. These suggestions are appropriate for everyone but we emphasize the importance of helping our older citizens take steps to manage emergency situations. There is no one plan “fits all” because everyone has varying needs but you can accommodate most of these needs within your personalized safety plan of action.

Determine A Plan
List phone numbers and addresses of your support system. Friends and family members who live nearby and medical providers could be listed. It is important that the older citizen knows and keeps in contact with the support providers listed. In the event of an emergency, you can contact them in advance of impending emergencies to determine if you need to evacuate or stay with someone who is out of the danger area.

Maintain Contact
The older citizen may be in a different town or location when disaster strikes. Develop a method of communication. If you have a cell phone be sure you keep it charged. Phone calls and emails are effective if electricity and service is uninterrupted. Be aware of community plans for communication what needs to be done through phone calls from your city authority or sirens being sounded to warn that action should be immediately taken or other such procedures.

Evacuation
If evacuation is recommended, do so immediately. Trying to save your home or possessions by taking dangerous chances with your life pales against the saving of lives. As is often said, houses and possessions can eventually be replaced, not so with your life. Do not try to be a hero or stubbornly refuse to leave if strongly advised to do so.

Purchase or Make an Emergency Kit
Buy water to last at least three days. It is recommended that one gallon of water per person along with a three-day supply of nonperishable food along with a manually operated can opener be included in the emergency kit. The kit should include a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, towelettes, a whistle to summon help if necessary. Other recommended items include a dust mask to protect against contaminated air and duct tape which is vital for helping to shelter-in-place and a weather radio. As your medical provider to give you a spare prescription to be placed in the kit in the event you run out of medication. Be sure to take your current medications if you need to evacuate your home. Contact your local emergency preparedness center for more information on making or purchasing an emergency disaster kit.

Await the “All Clear”
Do not return to your residence until officials have given the instruction that it is safe to return to your residence. If there has been widespread destruction of property, be prepared that you may not be allowed to return for several days until the area has been secured and stabilized as much as possible under the circumstances.

Your mental health
Facing the outcome of an emergency crisis can be devastating mentally. The loss will often be unspeakable and seemingly insurmountable. This is the time to lean upon your faith and to be with friends and family for emotional support to help you cope with the consequences of the disaster. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to take advantage of spiritual counseling and resist trying to figure out why God allows such things to happen. Take comfort in knowing that He has spared your life as well as others and know that He is in control. None of us have the mind of God.

Share these suggestions with your older loved ones and actively help them to put in place an emergency disaster plan to help them feel more reassured and confident to implement an effective disaster plan. For more information on emergency preparedness, visit the website www.ready.gov or your local emergency preparedness office for additional helpful information.